The measured reopening of sport has reached the Island.
The Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, which cancelled its regular 2020 pro golf season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Friday it will host four tournaments for players residing in Canada.
The Canada Life Series will feature two 54-hole events at Bear Mountain in Langford on the mountain course from Aug. 10 to 12 and valley course from Aug. 17 to 19 followed by tournaments on Sept. 2-4 and Sept. 9-11 at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley.
Each tournament will offer a purse of $50,000 with fields of between 90 to 120. They will consist of Canadian pros and top amateurs and Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour members of any citizenship who are already in Canada. The series champion will earn a berth into the 2021 RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s in Toronto.
It offers some salve in an otherwise lost season for aspiring Canadian pro golfers.
“It was certainly disappointing when circumstances surrounding COVID-19 required us to cancel the 2020 Mackenzie Tour season,” said Scott Pritchard, executive director of the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada.
“We were poised for a great summer of golf, but we never lost sight of the purpose for this Tour, which is to give players opportunities. Soon after we cancelled the season, Bear Mountain reached out to us. They helped move this forward.”
The Bear Mountain tournaments will be the second and third sporting events to take place on the Island after sport shut down in March. The reopenings began last week with the first race in the Sidney Velo Cycling Club’s 17.4-kilometre time trial series, which goes every Tuesday until Sept. 1.
Each sport at each level differs in terms of physical and financial considerations regarding restarts. The B.C. Football Conference, which includes the Westshore Rebels and Vancouver Island Raiders, and Western Hockey League, which includes the Victoria Royals, have announced starting dates of Sept. 19 and Oct. 2, respectively, but both are considered optimistic because they require socially-distanced fans in attendance to be viable.
Golf was the first sport to return worldwide. The Canada Life Series will adhere to the safety guidelines being practised elsewhere in the sport’s reopening. Spectators will not be allowed to watch the two Bear Mountain tournaments as per the current B.C. regulation banning gatherings of more than 50 people. There will also be no caddies and minimal volunteers.
“The intent is to limit the number of bodies on site,” said Pritchard. “We have our safety protocols and will work jointly with the protocols Bear Mountain has put in place.”
The Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada is the launching pad to the Korn Ferry Tour, which in turn is the entry portal to the PGA Tour. The Mackenzie Tour’s alumni includes 41 PGA Tour players and 232 Korn Ferry Tour players produced since 2013.
Among the regular Mackenzie Tour tournaments cancelled was the annual Victoria stop, which has been a Tour fixture since 1981 and has featured future PGA Tour players from Steve Stricker to Tony Finau. The latest, Doc Redman, has soared up the PGA charts since finishing second in Victoria last year. The 2020 version of the Victoria tournament, the DC Bank Open presented by the Times Colonist at Uplands, was scuttled last month as part of the cancelled Mackenzie Tour season.
Bear Mountain hosted PGA Tour Champions’ events in 2016 and 2017 on the mountain course. The $2.5-million Pacific Links tournaments featured former stars and current seniors such as Colin Montgomerie, John Daly, Bernhard Langer, Vijay Singh, Scott McCarron, Jerry Kelly and Lee Janzen.
Bear Mountain is also home to Golf Canada’s centralized national training centre. There will be six sponsor exemptions in each Canada Life Series tournament for national team members.
The mountain and valley courses will offer the Canada Life Series golfers varying and disparate challenges.
Rob Larocque, Bear Mountain director of golf, described the two courses as “quite diverse.”
“Jack and Steve [Nicklaus] designed them in such a way that we think the tournaments will certainly have different feels to them,” said Larocque.
The tournament director for the Bear Mountain events will be Dale Jackson.